This site is included in LMCC’s Creative Insider’s Guide to Lower Manhattan, sponsored by Launch LM.
At the time of construction, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company was the largest corporation in the world. Founded by the inventor Alexander Graham Bell in the 1880s, it grew to control phone and telegraph service throughout the world. 195 Broadway replaced the Western Union headquarters and was designed by William Welles Bosworth, an architect closely associated with the Rockefeller family, for whom Bosworth designed the grounds and terraces at Kykuit, their Westchester estate.
Bosworth was a devoted classicist, an architect whose somewhat conservative output exhibits considerable elegance and restraint. In contrast to subsequent towers shaped by the 1916 zoning ordinance, much of 195 Broadway has a clear horizontal orientation. The elevations, which were constructed in three stages, between 1912 and 1922, are organized as uninterrupted colonnades, each distinguished by a different classical order. While the lowest colonnade, based on the Parthenon in Athens, is Doric, the rest are Ionic and based on the Temple of Artemis in Sardis, Turkey. At the rear of the Fulton Street facade, a slender three-bay annex rises to a stepped pyramid. This architectural feature originally served as the platform where the “Genius of Electricity” by the figurative sculptor Evelyn Beatrice Longman, often called “Golden Boy,” originally stood. Later moved to the lobby of Philip Johnson’s AT&T (now Sony) Building on Madison Avenue, this 17-foot-tall gilt statue is currently installed inside the company’s corporate headquarters in Dallas, Texas.
The former AT&T Building occupies most of the block. Of particular interest is the atmospheric first floor lobby, which was designated an Interior Landmark in 2006. Lit by bronze chandeliers, 40 fluted Doric columns conceal the steel piers that support the upper floors. Though these immense columns have Greek origins, this dramatic yet subdued space has a decidedly Egyptian feel, recalling the famed hypo-style hall of Karnak. This extraordinary room also contains “Service to the Nation in Peace and War.” Designed by Chester Beach, this commemorative sculpture was installed in 1928. In contrast to the other communications buildings that served the financial district in the early part of the 20th century, such as the Art Deco style Barclay-Vesey Building and original Long Lines Building of the AT&T Company on Sixth Avenue, this structure contained relatively little electronic equipment. Instead, it was intended to be a comfortable corporate headquarters for 3,500 white-collar employees, with the roof originally set aside for handball and squash courts, as well as outdoor seating.
– Matthew A. Postal